Around the Mountains: Mayor candidates debate in Hunter S. Thompson’s kitchen
ASPEN – The kitchen of the late writer Hunter S. Thompson became the unlikely – and also cramped – location of the latest of seven debates between the two remaining candidates in the election of Aspen mayor.The candidates, Tim Semrau and Mick Ireland, offer some similarities, but also contrasts. The Aspen Times reports that Ireland, an avid bicyclist, showed up in his usual gear: bicycling clothing – because, in fact, he rode his bicycle from Aspen to Thompson’s home at Woody Creek, a hamlet several miles from Aspen. He has made global warming one of his key campaign topics, and vowed not to burn any fossil fuels attending campaign events.”I want to be remembered as having walked the walk and talked the talk,” said Ireland.A one-time bus driver in Aspen, Ireland was a newspaper reporter and then a lawyer, but has made Aspen and politics his life’s work. He recently concluded more than a decade’s tenure as a county commissioner. Although several attempts were made to recall him from office, he survived them all, and says many of those who tried to oust him because of development restrictions in the backcountry have become his supporters.”We did things here that weren’t popular, and it stirred things up, but you have to do the right thing of instead of what’s most popular,” he said. He said his vision is for Aspen to become a sustainable resort environmentally and socially, where generations of families can live – not a place for a grandiose lifestyle or a result full of consumption, as it is today.While Ireland is perceived as arrogant but intelligent, says The Aspen Times, his opponent, Tim Semrau, is viewed as a developer who leans toward business interests at the expense of the environment and community. Among his projects were a 39-unit affordable housing project. He showed up for the debate wearing a “gonzo” T-shirt and a blazer.The issue of drugs also came up – and how could it have not, in the kitchen where Hunter Thompson reportedly consumed vast quantities of cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs. Both candidates denied similar lifestyles. Semrau endorsed a “casual approach” while Ireland testified to the value of police “enforcing with honesty and realism.”Air pollution in national park concerns scientistsGRAND LAKE – Scientists are warning of heightened levels of both nitrogen and mercury in Rocky Mountain National Park.Nitrogen levels are nearly 20 times pre-industrial levels, and scientists say the sources include car exhausts, farm fertilizers, and power-plant emissions. The Denver Post says that state air quality officials in June will consider regulations aimed at reducing air pollution.The newspaper in December also noted mercury levels in alpine lakes in the park are four times higher than in pre-industrial times. Don Campbell, of the U.S. Geological Survey, said research suggests that 70 percent of mercury in the atmosphere is from industrial processes. The most likely source is coal-fired power plants, although it’s impossible to determine exactly where it is coming from.Mercury gets spewed into the atmosphere where it can be held aloft in the air, pushed by winds, traveling the globe for months before being deposited on land and water. Higher elevations get more precipitation and therefore more mercury, Campbell said.During 1930s, even oranges were luxuryHOT SULPHUR SPRINGS – Work is beginning on a new justice center for Grand County as well as an expansion of the existing courthouse, which was built in 1938.Among the few people still alive who remember that construction is Tillie Gingery, 92, who was then a young mother. No gasoline- and diesel-powered earth-moving equipment was available then, so the work of excavating the basement came from horses and humans.Times were difficult in other ways as well. She tells the Sky-Hi News her family herded sheep and sold chili to Denver skiers who arrived by train (this predates Winter Park). She says one Christmas a person who worked for the state government delivered a box of fresh oranges to her family. But her husband, Ed, made her return the fruit. The Gingery family, he said, wasn’t going on welfare. “Man, I cried my eyes out,” she told the newspaper. “I hadn’t had fruit in so long.”Laborers making $20/hour in tight Steamboat marketSTEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Labor continues to be in higher demand in the Steamboat Springs area. This contrasts sharply with the story early in the century, but the labor pool has “really shrunk” in the last year, says Brian Bradbury, from the Steamboat springs Workforce Center.A landscaper reports paying helpers a rate of $12 to $18 an hour. General construction laborers are getting $20, reports the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Elsewhere, the newspaper reports that he median per capita income in the year 2005 was $53,000 in the Steamboat Springs area, compared to $28,000 nationally.
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